By Rick Palsgrove
The Groveport Madison Cruiser wrestling program is one of the extracurricular activities feeling the pinch of the school district’s $4.6 million in budget cuts.
Speaking at the Nov. 14 Groveport Madison Board of Education meeting, varsity wrestling coach Pat Niemann, who is a 1994 Groveport Madison graduate, said, “I am a Cruiser. The team represents as best as we can. We’re doing our part to keep athletics going.”
Following the defeat of the $5.5 million levy last May, the district’s extracurricular activities underwent a reorganization to save money. These varsity athletic programs continued to be funded by the district: football, volleyball, boys and girls basketball, baseball, softball and cheerleading. Band and choir also continued to be funded by the district.
The following programs were no longer funded by the district and instead had to become self-funded: tennis, golf, bowling, soccer, wrestling, theater, track and field, cross country, Cruiserettes and all academic clubs as designated by contract language. Additionally, cheerleaders and the marching band are not participating at any “away” sporting events.
“The board could only afford to fund six sports this year,” said board member Nathan Slonaker. “We made the painful decision on what to fund based on how likely we thought a program could survive a single year without board funds and how quickly a program could be rebuilt if it had to close down for one year. Basically, what funding decision would have the least long-term impact for athletics.”
Niemann thinks better communication about the extracurricular reorganization from the board of education and administrators to the coaches was needed prior to the levy last May.
“This is not a fair situation,” said Niemann of the decision to fund some activities but not all. “I understand cuts, but a better idea would have been to take a percentage cut from each program. I do not understand the decision to fund some junior high athletics at the expense of some varsity sports. That’s absurd.”
Niemann said from 2008-09 to last year, the wrestling program brought in $41,000 by holding tournaments. The lack of funding now hampers the team’s ability to hold tournaments.
Niemann said wrestling needs $11,000 for a full season, but the team was not able raise that amount through self-funding.
“We don’t have that much, so we’ll have a shortened season,” said Niemann.
Niemann mentioned the Cruisers’ rich championship tradition in wrestling and said, “This season we have a wrestler who could be one of the top three in Groveport history. This year’s team is also one of the best teams I’ve ever had. But I don’t know if we can even have a season next year under these financial circumstances.”
“We are honored to have coaches like Pat Niemann who are working hard to give our students those same athletic opportunities even though we cannot afford to pay them or fund their program at this time,” said Slonaker.